Wednesday, December 4, 2013

LPGA Q-School Day 1: Jaye Marie Green Sets Pace with 62 as 21 Golfers Break 70

The LPGA is pulling out all the stops publicizing this year's Stage III Qualifying Tournament--the final stage of Q-School, as it's more commonly known--with a great profile of Stage II medalist Amy Anderson, a fine wrap story on Jaye Marie Green's amazing 62 and other round 1 highlights, and loads of video (starting with a Green interview).

There's good reason for all the hoopla.  The overall quality of the field and level of competition are probably as strong as they've ever been.  As I discussed yesterday, there are a host of current and former LPGA members fighting to stay on or return to the big leagues, so many that it's going to be difficult for all but the best prospects--many of whom already have years of experience on other tours, from the LET to the Symetra Tour to the ALPG--to make their way into the Class of 2014.  True, there are no clear can't-miss stars or super-hot young prospects, as Lydia Ko has already achieved membership via her non-member wins and even Lee-Anne Pace (an LET leader for years) will have to prove herself against this field.  But the number of players who can rightfully expect to earn a card is much larger than the number of quality cards available (20).  And that gap is much larger than you'd typically see in a normal Q-School.

Case in point:  even with her 62, Green has only a 4-shot lead on 4-time LPGA winner Seon Hwa Lee and the multitalented Tiffany Joh.  Over 72 holes, that's a mere 1 stroke per round difference.

Case in point:  with 66 players shooting par or better, 47 going under par, and 21 breaking 70, a lot of big names have put themselves behind the 8-ball.

The following are in deep trouble heading into the 2nd round:
  • 80 (+8):  Junthima Gulyanamitta
  • 79 (+7):  Lauren Doughtie
  • 78 (+6):  Kelly Shon
  • 77 (+5):  Cheyenne Woods, Eunjung Yi, Jane Rah

The following have dug themselves a decent-sized hole to start climbing out of:
  • 76 (+4):  Yueer Cindy Feng, Kristie Smith, Jenny Suh (runner-up at Stage II), Esther Choe, Laura Gonzalez Escallon
  • 75 (+3):  Lee-Anne Pace, Jennifer Song, Brianna Do, Ginger Howard, Kim Welch
  • 74 (+2):  Birdie Kim, Louise Friberg, Rebecca Artis
That's 19 names right there, none of whom would have been surprises to get their 2014 LPGA cards if you had put me in hibernation until the end of Q-School and told me the results upon awakening me.  They're not out of it yet, but they'll need to break 70 at least once and, for some, multiple times now to bounce back from their slow or worse starts.  

Case in point:  the old Q-School model of play conservative, try to stay near par, and let your competitors shoot themselves in the foot won't fly anymore.  

The following avoided hurting themselves but couldn't quite keep pace with the leaders:
  • 73 (+1):  Frances Bondad, Stephanie Na, Cathryn Bristow, Marta Silva, Jean Reynolds, Natalie Sheary
  • 72 (E):  Lorie Kane, Ashleigh Simon, Joanna Klatten, Meaghan Francella, Lindy Duncan
  • 71 (-1):  Maria Hernandez, Silvia Cavalleri, Maude-Aimee Leblanc, Brittany Altomare
  • 70 (-2):  Reilley Rankin, Michelle Shin, Megan McChrystal, Katy Harris
The following got off to very good starts:
  • 69 (-3):  Mitsuki Katahira, Xiyu Lin, Carlie Yadloczky, Caroline Westrup
  • 68 (-4):  Hannah Yun, Victoria Tanco, Amy Anderson, Pinrath Loomboonruang
  • 67 (-5):  Harukyo Nomura, Line Vedel, Kathleen Ekey, Nicole Jeray, Megan Grehan
That's 32 players who in the old system would have been feeling pretty comfortable, but they can't rest on their laurels this week.  With so many players capable of going low, this week is going to be more like a typical LPGA tournament than a typical Q-School.

That said, this is still Q-School, so it's not like I expect you'll need to be -15 just to squeak into the top 20 when all 90 holes have been played.  But I wouldn't be at all surprised if you needed to be double digits under par to be in the hunt on the final 9.  Let's see who can get there!

[Update 2 (10:02 pm):  Here are the top pairings for round 2:

Hills Course, 1st tee, 9:40 am:  Hannah Yun (68), Amy Anderson (68), Maiya Tanaka (70)
Hills Course, 1st tee, 9:50 am:  Jaye Marie Green (62), Jordan Hardy (70), Inhong Lim (72)
Hills Course, 1st tee, 9:30 am:  Pinrath Loomboonruang (68), Mi Rim Lee (69), Marta Silva (73)
Jones Course, 1st tee, 9:40 am:  Victoria Tanco (68), Caroline Westrup (69), Dotti Ardina (74)
Hills Course, 10th tee, 8:30 am:  Tiffany Joh (66), Brittany Altomare (71), Jackie Stoelting (71)
Hills Course, 1st tee, 9:30 am:  Seon Hwa Lee (66), Maude-Aimee Leblanc (71), Lindy Duncan (72)
Hills Course, 1st tee, 8:30 am:  Line Vedel (67), Madeleine Sheils (71), Tracy Stanford (72)
Hills Course, 1st tee, 8:20 am:  Mitsuki Katahira (69), Jennifer Kirby (71), Julia Boland (71)
Hills Course, 10th tee, 9:10 am:  Kathleen Ekey (67), Babe Liu (71), Jean Reynolds (73)
Hills Course, 10th tee, 8:40 am:  Xiyu Lin (69), Stacey Keating (72), Mallory Blackwelder (73)

It'll be interesting to see who can take advantage of the Jones Course tomorrow and who among those that already did can master the Hills Course!]


Dave Andrews said...

Before Q School started I thought 4 under would make the top 20. Now, after being there today and seeing the weather conditions will remain about perfect for all four days, I think 8 to 10 under might be needed to get your card.

The Constructivist said...

Hey Dave, thanks for the comment. The one thing I didn't bother to look up was the weather, so it's good to hear the players can expect scoring conditions to remain good!